Mike recalls the early days, when he would notice tattoos on some early punk band stars. Back then, in the late 70’s early 80’s, if you had a few tattoos, you had a lot.
I remember the blue demon on Ozzy’s chest.
His first tattoo was quite dramatic too. He was 18 and he got theatrical skull masks.
They were single needle. And just crazy. But a few months later, my buddy got the same ones in the same place. So I went back and got a bunch of things around mine to make it look different. I was arrogant.
Like most of us who’ve gotten ink, he wanted more.
I wanted to get more tattoos. But it still wasn't so accessible. You got what you could afford and $200 was a lot of money back then. And, a lot of places made you pick something from the wall. If you didn't see it on the wall you couldn't get it. It was all flash.
Mike was always attracted to the artistry of ink. But didn’t think about a career as a tattooist.
The art bug I had forever. Art was an outlet and escape. I never considered becoming a tattoo artist - it was so permanent. I thought it was crazy.
The turning point came while he worked in a not-so-glamourous job.
That saying, necessity is the mother of invention, explains how I got into this business. I was back in the workforce in a construction job. It was brutal. I ran into my buddy, Mark Mahoney, in Hollywood who wanted me to work at Gill Montie's tattoo shop, called Tattoo Mania, on Saturdays. Then I started covering Sundays. I started covering for the guys during the week. I ended up making almost a week’s pay in 2 days. It was a world I was comfortable in.
But it wasn't an easy start.
You couldn't just walk right in, it’s a secret society. I had to earn my way in.
The first tattoos he ever did were on his band mates, with thread and a needle. One was a “666”.
I did different degrees of stupidity on everyone’s hands.
Then he earned an apprenticeship at Mark Mahoney’s own tattoo shop, Shamrock Social Club, in Hollywood. He started working on his own legs at home, to practice.